Before I talk about the brilliance of Man VS Snake, let’s first look at one of the characters here that I have always admired, Walter Day. If you are a videogame freak like me then perhaps you know the name, but others might wonder why I admire this wirey old fella in the referee’s shirt so much. I think it is probably thanks to my history with videogames, from being young and my dad’s cafe being the place in town to come to play the latest games with every teen in town saving up his/her ten pences to enjoy the newest pixellated adventure. This probably sounds quite quaint to younger readers who now have ultra powerful consoles at home that can give you a hundred hours of cinematic gameplay without breaking a sweat. But in the old days (alright Grandpa!) it was just you and the machine, in the arcade, no continues, ten pence to gain immortality.
Sure that might sound romantic, but it is thanks to Walter Day that this can be taken literally. Walter loved video arcades so much that he decided to open one as an excuse to play even more games and here he watched the local kids become icons to the other youths gathering round the machine to check the high score. But who was the best? Again this was answered by Day when he began collecting the top scores from gamers all over the world, creating the Twin Galaxies list of the official best ever totals. I remember how great it was when I was Retro Games Editor of Games TM Magazine (officially listed in the first issue of my contributions under the title Retro Kendall, as, when would there ever be another?) and I would see emails from Walter Day pop up in inbox telling me about Pac-Man contests, or Joust marathons or whatever was happening in the video game world. Amazing.
Now Walter Day is kinda responsible then for Man VS Snake, an excellent documentary about man against machine, every bit as exciting as a big sports event with an equally fanatical audience. Day talks about the fact that in the game Nibbler, it is possible to reach one billion points, the first game to roll over to such a high number (also sounding quaint these days, but really, who was going to play Nibbler for the 35 or 36 hours you would need to reach that score? Oh wait, here’s one…) and once this is known, the best players want to be the guy that breaks the record. Enter Tim McVey (“He’s a lovely guy. Not a terrorist, no.”) who in 1984 became the first man to pass that target. You might think he would be the only one, but soon there is another and…well, I won’t spoil the multiple twists and turns that you will not see coming as one man, who holds down a 10 hour a day full time job, waits for his 3 or 4 day holidays to attempt the record again. It is thrilling watching the scores rack up and imagining how a man’s body feels after 36 hours in front of a machine. On a single quarter.
Man VS Snake sits up there with King Of Kong as a videogame masterwork and Billy Mitchell who you will remember as ‘the bad guy’ in KOK is here portraying his lighter side, cheering Tim on along with the rest of us as he chases his dream.
Watch out though, after watching it, all you are going to want to do is play Nibbler! 🙂
1. Twist – Knuckle Puck
2. Butterfly – Mansun
3. Weekend Woman – Weezer
4. Yes – Manic Street Preachers
5. Who’s Wearing The Trousers – Paul Draper
6. PS Fuck You – The Anchoress
7. Back In Your Head – Tegan And Sara / Ryan Adams
8. Welcome To New York – Taylor Swift
9. Glorious – CFO$
10. Dance Dance – Fall Out Boy
Only a couple of weeks until we can return to the Saw universe. Cannot wait!
They wonder why we feel this way
As they sit in their high chairs
Ruling over us all
Like cattle to the slaughter.
One day we will rise
And their heads will roll
Like bowling balls
Knocking down the pins of our despair.
Look up from your phones
We are on the streets
And we are coming for you.
“Any attack on any lie is justified.”